Winds of change as Williams sisters crash out in Paris
It is not only the barometer that has pointed to 'change' in Paris this week. Unpredictable showers and chilly breezes at Roland Garros have been matched by an icy wind at the top of the game, with Serena Williams yesterday becoming the third reigning Grand Slam champion to slip up.
Williams did not just lose on Court Suzanne Lenglen, she was routed 6-2 6-2 by a woman few of the spectators had heard of. Now aged 20, Garbine Muguruza grew up in Venezuela cheering for north Americans such as the Williams sisters and Pete Sampras; she could never have guessed that she would end up knocking one of her heroes out of the French Open.
"I don't know anything that worked today," said Williams, who coughed up 29 unforced errors and never found any rhythm against an inspired opponent. Williams' powerlessness was reminiscent of her first-round exit here against Virginie Razzano two years ago.
"Now I'm going to go home and work five times as hard, to make sure I never lose again."
This may be no idle threat. Immediately after that Razzano defeat, Williams began her coaching partnership with Patrick Mouratoglou and set off on a run of 31 victories from 32 matches through the rest of the 2012 season, winning two Grand Slam titles and Olympic gold.
Mouratoglou predicted something similar could happen this year. "Today she was the overwhelming favourite, the title holder, she has a 4,000-point lead at the top of the world rankings," Mouratoglou said. "She will be furious about this match. She will be even more determined to go out and win Wimbledon and everything else that follows."
After Li Na's defeat on Tuesday, the French Open will go into its third round without the top two seeds, which has never previously happened in an open-era Grand Slam. The match also inflicted a record margin of defeat on Williams, who had won at least five games in each of her 288 Grand Slam matches.
Muguruza kept a simple game plan: she whacked it down the middle.
Williams' best shots are invariably played on the run, so a smart opponent denies her the chance to accelerate towards the ball. It may sound counter-intuitive, but you are better off making her move as little as possible, because that way her footwork gets lazy and she has fewer angles to work with.
It helped that Williams' serve, usually the most destructive weapon in women's tennis, was failing in the blustery wind. At 3-1 down in the second set, she sent down two double-faults and yelled: "I can't serve today!"
The draw had put both Williams sisters in the same section, raising the possibility that they might come together in the third round for their first Grand Slam encounter since 2009. But Venus also slumped to defeat, losing 2-6 6-3 6-4 barely an hour before her sister, which means Muguruza will face another emerging talent tomorrow in 19-year-old Slovakian Anna Schmiedlova. The two Williams slayers are ranked No 35 and No 56 respectively, but are likely to climb considerably higher.
Serena shared a warm handshake with Muguruza after the match and offered some encouraging words. "She said that if I continue playing like this, I can win the tournament," said Muguruza, who lives in Spain now and has yet to decide which country to pledge her allegiance to.
"I replied: 'I will try, I will try.' It was a wonderful feeling. Since I was a child, I thought: 'Oh, I want to play against Serena on centre court.'"
There were no major upsets in the men's draw, but the field has already opened up with the exits of third seed Stan Wawrinka, ninth seed Kei Nishikori and 11th seed Grigor Dimitrov. Novak Djokovic dealt clinically with a dangerous French opponent in Jeremy Chardy, dropping only seven games. Roger Federer also won in straight sets against Diego Sebastian Schwartzman.
Andy Murray plays his second-round match today against Australia's Marinko Matosevic, whose nickname is 'Mad Dog'.
In Monte Carlo a year ago, Matosevic deliberately toppled the water bottles that Rafael Nadal lines up in front of his chair during a match. But after only one victory in 13 Grand Slam matches, one suspects he may need a few more offbeat tactics to trouble Murray today. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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